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Monday, January 31, 2011

Walking on water . . .

Dear Friends and Prayers:

I looked out our window the other day and there were our neighbors' ducks out for a stroll on the frozen pond. It was quite comical watching them take slippery steps and make their way to and fro. Just the day before they had been splashing and feeding and having a good old time. "So what's going on here?" they might be saying!

At one point they were all bobbing their heads up and down in unison, as if they thought perhaps they could actually break through the icy crust if they could shift their weight just right! But all to no avail. If you're really curious, you can take a look here.

I couldn't help but draw a parallel with our experiences with the Lord. With the passing of time, there can be subtle changes, or not so subtle as in the case of these ducks. I think this can happen to any of us, both as indivuduals and as churches or groups.

For example, I've been through some periods of scripture reading where my times have been so rich and profound and I enjoy wonderful fellowship and prayer. But there have been other times when it just seemed dry and mechanical - I slogged through it dutifully because it was good to do. And I must confess there were times I read my bible much less than I should have done.

I think for some churches things can go the same way. What begins as a lively, loving and committed group can gradually change. Meetings were packed with energetic and heart-felt worship, and anointed preaching challenged and changed lives. People were enjoying great fellowship and being fed and discipled. And yet somehow with the passing of time it all has become routine and stale. I believe the root of this is as Jesus says in Revelation 2:4, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

As I look around at so many old chapels and churches that are now vacant, the fact of that change is painful. Just yesterday I heard the statistic that each week in Wales, another church or chapel closes its doors for the last time. That makes a pretty grim picture, doesn't it?

In truth though, we find that it doesn't dampen our spirit, but rather just makes us dig in deeper to what the Lord has called us to be doing here. We may hear little bits and pieces of negative-sounding stuff, but we know that God is greater than apparent circumstance.

What amazing assurance to know that we can confidently "...walk by faith, not by sight." There is a source of hope and light that the world needs to see. His name is Jesus, and His truth reigns supreme. He will accomplish His purposes, and He is actively at work in the hearts and lives of men and women around the world today. Habakkuk 2:14 says, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." End of story. Or is ot the beginning?

So then, how do we keep our pond from freezing over? We want to walk on water too, but not like the ducks! I think it has to do with temperature. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12, "...the love of many will grow cold." But if we spend time in His presence, in His word, in worship, in fellowship with others, He will sustain us. Because God is love, He delights in warming a cooling heart. But you can't get warm by just looking at a fire. You have get close to it!

Let's keep pressing in for the blessing together,

Dick & Gladys


Monday, January 24, 2011

Pray for a Springtime of Salvation & Praise

Dear Friends and Prayers:

Last week turned out to be busier than we expected. As I mentioned, we went to North Wales and had a great meeting in Blaenau Festiniog. Of the nine of us in the meeting, one was a visitor from Scotland who added an energetic element of urgency to our prayers.

We have learned of other small groups of prayers in Blaenau and hope to be able link up with them somehow. I think that just to have them meet each other and know that they are not alone would be a great encouragement for them all.

On our way home last Wednesday, we drove over this beautiful mountain pass. There were still a few patches of snow, but mostly a build-up of hard frost that hasn't melted without some direct sunlight.

We had stopped to snap a few pictures when I was startled by three jet fighters that came roaring up the valley, twisting and turning like a scene out of some movie. Apparently they were all friends and so there was no shooting. And hopefully they all made it home safely, as did we!

Over the weekend we went to visit some friends in Cardiff. On Friday night Neil and I went to a church that had had nightly meetings going on for nearly two weeks. The worship went on for a couple of hours and was wonderful! At several points during this time the depth of worship was so sweet and intense that I was just overwhelmed. What a privilege to worship freely with so many others exalting Jesus and enjoying His loving presence.

During one song I had this vivid picture come to mind of the trees in our valley that are beginning to be covered with buds. Although still months away from putting out new leaves, thousands upon thousands of buds are slowly but surely forming, taking on color and getting ready. What struck me was it seemed that they all were longing for the day when they could just stretch out their leaves and touch the sunlight.

But the deeper picture that was impressed on me was that these buds represented the thousands upon thousands of people that were created to love and worship their Maker. Every single person, young, old or in between, was uniquely made to know and enjoy Him who formed them. And I became acutely aware of how the longing in every human heart for love and acceptance and security only be truly fulfilled in Jesus.

Especially the young people seem to be almost frantically searching something humanly unreachable, and in all the wrong places. In reality, everyone without Christ in their lives is like all these buds. But they are lost in a winter where spring is nowhere in sight! It is as if time has frozen and there is no growth and no real hope for a meaningful future.

A little later while we were singing "I exalt thee, I exalt thee, I exalt thee oh Lord," I somehow became poignantly aware of the thousands of voices that seemed to be missing. They were the ones that should be and could be praising and worshipping God for His mercies and goodness. In fact, the deep longings that people have been striving to satisfy for centuries are really a God-given longing for fellowship with Him. They have been mis-directed by an unbelieving world system towards things that can never satisfy this inner thirst.

So for us that know and love Him, wonderful times of worship and closeness to our heavenly Father can go a step farther. If we give Him the opportunity, and our willingness to be broken, they can become times of profound intercession for the lost. And what a marvelous hope we have here - not only a sure hope for ourselves - but the hope that God in His mercy will reach through the icy coldness of godless humanity and release frozen hearts to turn to Him with gratitude and praise.

What a glorious hope we have in the words of Isaiah in 63:1-3.

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

Asking Him for a springtime of salvation and praise,

Dick & Gladys


Monday, January 17, 2011

Delightful Discoveries

Dear Friends & Prayers:

To my delight, a few days ago I discovered the first snowdrops pushing their shoots up through the soil in the hedge by the cemetery. It is a reassuring sign that winter is not going to last forever! Actually it almost seems like it already is compared with the extreme cold we had a few weeks ago.

It is a similar kind of delightful discovery that I believe Jeremiah had in mind when he says in Lamentations 3:22-23, "Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." When we re-discover this amazing truth of God's grace and mercy towards us each day, it supplies a wonderful freshness to our experience.

And although the weather may not always permit us to make this kind of earthly discoveries, the His word is always available to us. And with a little prayerful exploring therein, we can find envigorating treasures. It seems this is a very practical way to comply with Paul's exhortation in Romans 4:6, "... just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
(My new great niece makes a good illustration!)

Tomorrow we are headed to Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales for a monthly prayer meeting that we helped to start a year ago. We haven't been since September, and are looking forward to seeing our friends there. We hope to take some encouragement with us, and surely will receive some for ourselves as well. We appreciate your ongoing prayers for this area that is so greatly in need of some of this wonderful new life in Jesus Christ! (You can find more background information about our involvement in Blaenau if you click here.)

Well, I'm going to keep this update short as there are things to do (like sleep) before we leave tomorrow morning. So I hope it was short but sweet!

Thanks as always for your interest and especially your prayers!

With love and blessings to you in Our Savior,

Dick & Gladys


Monday, January 10, 2011

Change in prayer is changing lives!

Dear Friends and Prayers:

A few mornings ago I was reading in Zechariah 6:1-8 about his vision of the four chariots. The angel explains to him in verses 6-8, "The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country... And He called to me, and spoke to me, saying, 'See, those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country.'"

As I read this I was moved to tears, remembering how He has "strived with mankind forever..." and so I asked the Lord how could we give His spirit rest? I felt His clear answer was that when we set apart times to worship and pray and intercede for His people, both the church and the unsaved, we are giving His spirit rest.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." It seems that in taking His yoke upon ourselves in times of prayer, not only do we help bear His burden, but He also teaches us more about how to pray from a place of rest in His heart and with His power.

What an opportunity and what a privilege for us, His children, to be able to do that from anywhere on earth at any time! In fact, I'm sure that thousands of us are actually doing that at any given moment. Isn't it wonderfully encouraging to know that we can contribute in a significant way towards a concert of prayer going heavenwards from around the globe all the time - 24/7?

Speaking of encouragement, just a few days before we left for the U.S in October I got a call from an intercessor friend. She told the story of a farmer who had a sovereign encounter with the Living God, and how his life was totally changed. I was so thrilled to hear part of the story that I shared it many times with friends there.

Here is a link to the video that tells the story and interviews him as well. It is definitely worth watching, and gives some valuable insight into life in the farming community, and how God can bring such a marvellous change into a difficult situation.

No doubt there are many more stories that have not been documented. And certainly there are countless more that haven't even taken place yet. But one thing is certain - as more amd more people are being drawn into prayer, God is moving in people's lives, and there is plenty more to come!

We hear from folks in many quarters around Wales and other parts of the world, and there is a stirring and a moving that we all can sense in the spirit. This is such an amazing time to be alive. And there is so much to sink our teeth into and pray about. I just want to encourage you to join in this concert of prayers of the saints worldwide. If we are willing to give time to Jesus in prayer, He is willing and able to teach us how to make it count!

In boldness because of what He has done,

Dick & Gladys


Monday, January 03, 2011

A New Year Challenge - Job rocks our boat!

Dear Friends and Prayers:

Here we are in a brand new year - 2011, Year of Our Lord! We received this beautiful banner as a gift from our friends in Singapore, and it hangs on the wall of our winter prayer booth in the chapel. It seems like a wonderful foundation for this year, and for every year!

He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Living One who was dead and is alive forever, and He holds the keys of death and hell.

He is the Prince of Peace, the great I AM. He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider. He lives in us, and calls us His own. He leads us beside quiet waters and refreshes our souls. And He will never leave us or forsake us!

The list could go on and on, and it will - as praises for ever and ever. But suffice this for now as a solid platform for this coming year. Keeping in mind what Luke said in Acts 17:28, "For in him we live and move and have our being...", this can't help but be a great year!

One of our prayers for this year comes from the book of Job. In chapter 29 he tells his friends how "he longs for the days when God watched over him." It paints an beautiful picture of just how blessed his life was, and provides a good and godly challenge for us too. The whole chapter is awesome, but here are a few highlights.

12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
13 The one who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow's heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.

22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears like dew.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.

This is such a marvelous expression of the heart of the Father towards the people He loves. He sent His son to die for us and redeem us. And He is so willing and ready to empower us through the Holy Spirit to express His heart to the needy world around us. "So Lord, will you please help us to become more like Jesus to those around us during this coming year?" All we need to do is say "yes" and then be obedient to His leadings.

We are just overwhelmed at His constant goodness. It is wonderful that He doesn't let us get so accustomed to His ways that we just get used to it and take it for granted. If fact, that is one of the other things we pray for this year ... to be aware of and constantly amazed by His mercies and lovingkindness that are our daily portion!

We wish you innumerable blessings and overwhelming grace for the coming year,

Dick & Gladys


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